Read the Chief Executive's notes from the EFL Cup tie
Good evening one and all and welcome back to Kenilworth Road for today’s home seasonal opener versus Aston Villa for this exciting Round 1 League Cup tie.
We warmly welcome Roberto Di Matteo, his players, staff and, most importantly, the 1,500 supporters who have made the 170-mile round trip from Villa Park this evening.
Whilst it’s a pleasure to host a Club of Villa’s stature and credentials, having won this competition five times, we won’t be fazed by the event.
Indeed, having won this competition ourselves, having experienced some surprising cup success against Premier League and Championship sides relatively recently and having a better head-to-head record against Villa, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t enter tonight’s game with a degree of poise.
Our composure should certainly be inspired up by the performance and result from our first league match of the season at Plymouth on Saturday. And what a performance that was!
It may only be 1/46th of the league season gone but we were incredibly proud of the manner and character of our superb 3-0 victory, which created a new record as the best away start to a league season.
It wasn’t an easy game, by any means, against a side who I believe will be challengers again at the end of the season.
With so many changes made each summer it’s always encouraging to see such impressive displays from our four debutants (five including Jake Gray’s cameo), who all looked encouragingly like they had known their team-mates much longer than they actually have.
It was a real delight to see our 1,100 travelling supporters take the long drive home happy despite the endurance of the slow and painful 500-mile round trip. Thank you everyone who made the journey – you were in great voice and did the Club proud.
Even before Saturday, we were more than happy with the quality of players Nathan and Mick have recruited this summer and have complete faith in the new coaching team’s ability to build a team that brings success this season and beyond.
May I take this opportunity on behalf of the board to formally warmly welcome our new additions to Luton Town since last term? Joining Nathan’s staff are Paul Hart, Joaquin Gomez and Jared Roberts-Smith.
Joining two familiar faces after successful loan periods in Alan Sheehan and Glen Rea, we have six new contract players in Christian Walton, Jonny Mullins, Danny Hylton, Jordan Cook, Isaac Vassell and Jake Gray. Welcome to all. I’d also like to proudly congratulate Frankie, Akin, James, Alex, Tyreeq and Liam on their first pro contracts – well done!
Another performance we can be proud of at the weekend was to hear about our Under-18s team, which contained a number of new additions from the younger age-group, hammering Dagenham & Redbridge 10-2 away from home in their first match of the season.
I jokingly enquired as to how we conceded two goals against Non-League opposition, only for my enquiry to be treated seriously and to be reassured that Andy and Paul were unhappy that we did, raising it as an issue that was ‘discussed’ with the team somewhat sternly.
Naturally, we’re all thrilled at the potential prospects of our young players having had the pleasure of seeing their progress last season. David Wilkinson will discuss the joys of our youth progress more in Saturday’s programme as we look to develop this area even further but, personally, this season comes with more anticipation than any other because of the inclusion of so many academy players.
One very exciting development that will greatly improve the potential for our first team, our development teams and our young academy players is the investment and commitment we have made in securing a new training ground site at The Brache in Luton; most of the former Vauxhall Recreation Ground site.
The core foundations of the footballers’ home environment is vital to any football team’s success and this restructure will raise our ambitions significantly. Over the next couple of years, we fully intend to turn The Brache into a first-class, pristine training camp which will consist of three drained and irrigated grass pitches, a new FIFA 2 Star artificial grass surface, specialist technical areas all supported by renovations made to the existing buildings to create a players’ gym, refurbished changing rooms, a players’ canteen and a classroom or two.
By day, these new facilities will be enjoyed by our first team squad, development squad and our under 18s squad with our lower age groups using the same facilities in the evenings. This ultimately means we will soon have a single nucleus for the coaching of every one of our age-groups from 7 to 37. Having one environment will help us further develop our footballing aspirations through the cultural education of our discipline, behaviour, style, character and intellect or our players, young and not so young.
Our pitch construction contractors are already on site as your read this, meaning we should be able to move in by the end of the calendar year, weather permitting.
During the contract negotiations we were disappointed to note that a number of sports and hobby clubs have been or will be displaced by the current tenants, Venue 360.
Whilst it isn’t strictly our contractual duty to look out for their welfare, we accept that we have a moral duty to do all we can to accommodate their needs, if at all possible even temporarily, or provide some helpful assistance to ensure that they can continue with as little disruption as possible.
If there’s a theme to these programme notes this evening, the buzzword is ‘development’. From the development of raw young talent, through the sure and steady development of our standing in the football pyramid, to the development of new training facilities that will help deliver those ambitions.
It is with great pleasure that we have been able to fulfil our biggest development commitment we gave you at the beginning of last season. I promised we would have a planning application submitted by the start of this season, and I’m thrilled to be able to confirm that we have delivered that promise.
Last week we submitted two planning applications to Luton Borough Council, one for Newlands Park and one for Power Court.
Naturally, given the scale of our intended developments, it’s a little challenging to provide full details of what is included within those applications in this column, but clearly the key element is a fantastic new stadium in the heart of the town centre in tandem with a mixed-use gateway development at Junction 10 of the M1; two schemes that will, literally, change the face of our town for good.
A huge number of you – 4,000 people to be more accurate – visited one of our public consultation exhibitions at three venues in town back in May where our models and plans were revealed to the public. Gratifyingly, the vast majority of visitors – whether supporters or residents – were unwaveringly supportive of both schemes and supportive of both the stadium and non-stadium allocations.
So, what happens now?
Firstly, the Council’s Planning Office needs to validate our application which may take another week or two. Once validated the Council will then upload our application to their planning portal where the public will be able to view the numerous and various plans, reports and assessments. At this stage you will be able to make your opinions heard to the Council remembering that public opinion will form a major component of their consideration. Be assured that once we have clarity from the Council on the specifics of their consultation exercise we will share this with you.
We’ll eventually hear the outcome of the Council’s decision at the end of this calendar year or perhaps early 2017. Assuming our application is successful without any major obstacles, we should be on target to build and move into a new stadium by the start of the 2020/2021 season.
These applications are substantial in scale and even though we think we’ve thought of everything, objections will always come forward. It’s normally human nature to shout louder to stop an event one doesn’t want to occur – as those of you who marched against a move to MK in 1982 will testify.
This milestone is equally as important – probably more so – to the future of Luton Town’s ambitions and even survival so it is vital that you make your voices heard once the Council consult the public.
Meanwhile, maybe we can exercise our vocal chords, get behind the team in front of the TV cameras and spur our lads onto victory.
Come On You Hatters!